On a lovely spring day in 1885, two gentlemen sat on their horses near the statue of Achilles by Richard Westmacott in London’s Hyde Park. The gentlemen were well acquainted: Hugh Cecil Lowther, the Fifth Earl of Lonsdale (1857-1944) and Sir George Chetwynd, (1849-1917) were both sportsmen and moved in similar circles. Both men were waiting to meet someone: Lillie Langtry, a famous actress, had accidentally agreed to ride with both Hugh and George on the same morning. And in the absence of a graceful way of escaping the predicament, Lillie had simply stayed home. Continue reading

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Great Sporting Posters of the Golden Age, Sid Latham (1978)

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s manufacturers of guns, munitions, and to a lesser extent fishing tackle, promoted their products with large colorful posters and calendars, featuring artwork commissioned from some of the finest illustrators of the era. I was recently introduced to this art form through Sid Latham’s book, Great Sporting Posters of the Golden Age (1978). This oversize volume, found in the Library’s Main Reading Room, showcases two dozen advertising posters.

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Brant by Lynn Bogue Hunt (1909), for Du Pont Powder Company.

Right away one notices the lack of product information on these posters. There are company names, and tag lines, but beyond that there are only the images. Rather than directly peddling their products, these companies seek to evoke the memories and feelings of a viewer’s own experience in the field, and to associate their products with those experiences.

Here we see the thrill of the chase.  The image on the left was created for The Horton Manufacturing Company by Philip R. Goodwin (1917).  The lake scene on the right is by an unknown artist and was created for The Laflin & Rand Powder Company (1904 or 1905).  Quite a few of the posters in Latham’s book are by uncredited artists.  He tells us that some artists would not sign their commercial work in order to maintain their reputations as fine artists.  Apparently advertising work was considered undignified by some.

The next two posters highlight the beauty of the quarry.  The pair of grouse on the left are by Edward Knoebel (1909) for The Winchester Repeating Arms Company.  On the right, Gustave Muss-Arnolt places the viewer in the sky with a squadron of mallard ducks.  This poster was created for The Peters Cartridge Company.

Some posters, like this one by Carl Rungius for the Savage Arms Company (1904), showcase the moment of victory.

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This scene showing an unexpected occurrence sure to become an oft-told tale was done by an unknown artist for The Laflin & Rand Powder Company (1906).

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Both of the posters below are by unnamed artists.  They highlight a hunter’s working relationship and companionship with his dogs.  The setters on the left were painted for The Winchester Repeating Arms Company.  The hunter resting with his canine companions was created for Lefever Arms Company.

And of course, you can’t go wrong with puppies!  These adorable chaps were painted for The Union Metallic Cartridge Company by an unknown artist (1904).

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One of the reasons I think these illustrations are so evocative is that many of the artists were sporting men themselves. They spent time in the field and as a result their images have an authentic feel. In The Art of American Arms Makers (2004), we can see Philip R. Goodwin’s, Off for the Day’s Hunt, first as a preliminary water color sketch, next as the completed oil painting, and finally as a calendar for Winchester Guns and Cartridges.  Goodwin hunted in Montana in 1907 and 1910.  It’s likely that this scene is drawn from his experiences on those trips.

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Off for the Day’s Hunt by Philip R. Goodwin (1915).  In The Art of American Arms Makers, Richard C. Rattenbury (2004).  The gift of David S. Nelson.

Once the readership of sporting magazines ballooned manufacturers began to reach out to their potential customers through that venue.  There was no longer a need for the posters.  Today they are quite collectible, and of course they remain as evocative as ever.  In fact an added layer of nostalgia increases their beauty.

Beyond creating commercial posters, these artists illustrated books, painted, and sculpted.  The Library’s collections contain many examples of their work, as well as books about their careers.  The museum also holds examples of fine art created by some of the same artists.

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Matchless, by Gustave Muss-Arnolt (1885).  The gift of Harry T. Peters, Jr.

Drop in and read about Lynn Bogue Hunt’s, or Carl Rungius’ life in The Main Reading Room, or view a set of hound portraits painted by Gustave Muss-Arnolt in the Museum’s permanent collection.


SONY DSCErica Libhart has served as the Mars Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact Erica by e-mail

In 1933, a stunning new art exhibition opened at The Field Museum in Chicago. Brought together by none other than Marshall Field, the exhibition was an exclusive selection of 19 sculptures by Herbert Haseltine from his series British Champion Animals.

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“Portrait of Herbert Haseltine by Sir William Orpen, R. A.” frontispiece of Herbert Haseltine: An Exhibition of Sculpture of British Champion Animals, 1933. National Sporting Library & Museum.

Haseltine (1877-1962) was the son of a painter, and was born in Rome (then in the independent state of Lazio). He reputedly took an interest in horses at 12 years old when Buffalo Bill‘s “Wild West” show visited Italy to perform. Haseltine studied in various parts of Europe before settling in Paris (where he lived a great deal of his life).

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Herbert Haseltine (American, 1877 – 1962) Polo Pony: Perfection, 1930 bronze, 10 x 12 ½ x 4 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Jacqueline B. Mars. A selection of Haseltine’s series, British Champion Animals was exhibited at the Field Museum in 1933. Haseltine sent a copy of the exhibition catalog to artist Paul Brown.

The 1933 exhibition presented an opportunity for American artist Paul Brown to reach out to Haseltine. Because of careful retention of the paper record, a view of the relationship between both artists is in the NSLM collection.

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Brown forwarded Haseltine a book of his artwork, and Haseltine returned the favor. The exhibition catalog for British Champion Animals is inscribed “To Paul Brown from his admirer, Herbert Haseltine.” National Sporting Library & Museum.

Brown (1893-1958) was a hugely popular equestrian artist in his own right. He took advantage of Haseltine’s visit to the United States to forward a book featuring his artwork, and received back an exhibition catalog for British Champion Animals, and a letter. The letter shows that Haseltine was eager to “talk shop.”

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“I enjoyed looking at the horses. They are beautifully drawn and terribly alive.”
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“There is also a certain sameness about the mens [sic] faces.”
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“But you have a wonderful foundation for sculpture or painting. I saw your portrait of a horse of Scribners — a little too much detail — if you don’t mind my saying so. Also some of the horses’ ears a little rabbityfied at the points.”

Haseltine can’t keep himself from technical critique, but he tries to lighten the mood, too.

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“Please forgive all this HOT AIR.”

Below is a full transcription:

19th February, 1933

Dear Paul Brown,

Thank you a thousand times for the book – I enjoyed looking at the horses. They are beautifully drawn and terribly alive. Do you mind if I say something?

In the grouping – I would think of the composition in such a way that you couldn’t take anything out of it – without it’s being ruined. If it isn’t ruined, well it would be just as well without it. It all ought to hang together and make one. There is also a certain sameness about the mens faces.

But you have a wonderful foundation for sculpture or painting. I saw your portrait of a horse of Scribners — a little too much detail — if you don’t mind my saying so. Also some of the horses’ ears a little rabbityfied at the points. Look at a horse’s ears, especially a well bred one and you will see what I mean.

Please forgive all this HOT AIR. I hope we shall meet soon again.

Yours,

Herbert Haseltine

We don’t know what Brown thought about the letter, but he prized it enough to keep it, and the exhibition catalog. Both were donated to NSLM by Brown’s daughter, Nancy Brown Searles in 2011 and are now part of our manuscripts collection.

Long after the Field Museum exhibition, three smaller casts of Haseltine’s sculptures are in the permanent collection at NSLM. They’re often on view in the Permanent Collection exhibition, so plan your visit to see them in person soon!


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail

A gunshot rang out on the shores of the River Blythe, shattering the silence of the idyllic English countryside. Some minutes later, the shotgun blast was soon followed by another, from the second barrel. Three gentlemen were busy at their craft, but this was no wing shooting party. Passersby would have been startled to see two gentlemen (one, a man of the cloth) in an eccentric-looking octagonal hut built over the waters of the river, staring through the windows at their quarry as the gunshots went off.

The beast being tracked was a trout, some six inches beneath the surface of the water. The gentlemen in the hut were Rev. Brown and the ringleader who built the hut, Alfred Ronalds.

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Blythe Valley. Looking north along the River Blythe. Accessed via Wikipedia.

Ronalds (1802-1860) was conducting comprehensive studies on the habits of trout and grayling, and the shotgun blasts were part of an experiment to determine if fish could hear conversational noises above the water. The experimenters were careful not to be seen by the fish, and many loud noises were tried before finding that the fish showed no signs of distress from the noise.

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The location of Ronalds’ fishing hut. From The Fly-fisher’s Entomology, by Alfred Ronalds. Fifth edition, London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1856. National Sporting Library & Museum.

Ronalds was not a scientist by trade, instead making his living as an etcher and lithographer in 1830s England. His primary source of leisure was in fly fishing, and in his quest to unlock the secrets of the successful catch, he’d gone as far as the construction of a special shack from which to observe the fishes of the Blythe. From this headquarters, he carefully noted fish habits and diets, studied their vision, hearing, and even taste (offering foods to fish coated in cayenne pepper and mustard, he found the fish enjoyed the spicy food).

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Findings on the vision of the trout, detailing differences in vision through water and air. From The Fly-fisher’s Entomology, by Alfred Ronalds. Fifth edition, London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1856. National Sporting Library & Museum.

The result of Ronalds’ experimentation was his 1836 book, The Fly-fisher’s Entomology. Drawing on his talents as an engraver and his scientific observations, Ronalds developed an illustrated list of artificial flies and the times of year they should be used.

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Flies for April: Golden Dun Midge, Sand Fly, Stone Fly. From The Fly-fisher’s Entomology, by Alfred Ronalds. Fifth edition, London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1856. National Sporting Library & Museum.

The real key to Ronalds’ book was combining awareness of the insect life-cycle to a clearer understanding of the feeding habits of fish. If you want to catch a fish, imitate the bugs they eat at the correct time of season. Though this maxim might seem simple today, the book was a wildly-successful turning point in the literature of fly fishing, and Ronald is widely credited with launching modern fly-fishing writing. The Fly-fisher’s Entomology would go through 11 editions between 1836 and 1913 and be extensively reprinted in the 20th Century.

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Flies for April: Iron Blue Dun, Jenny Spinner, Hawthorn Fly. From The Fly-fisher’s Entomology, by Alfred Ronalds. Fifth edition, London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1856. National Sporting Library & Museum.

Ronalds went on to relocate to Wales in 1844, and after his first wife died in 1847 he moved his family to Australia. He set up his own engraving business in Melbourne, then in Ballarat after the Australian gold rushes in the 1850s. He died of a stroke in 1860. The Fly-fisher’s Entomology was the only book he ever produced. But considering its massive influence on the sport Ronalds loved, we can safely say that it was a great one.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail